Don’t Vote: An Alternative to American Politics
Nick Rynerson takes a look at the history and value of Christian political disengagement.
It’s election season in the age of social media. Without fail, our twitter feeds are filled with hashtags like #debate and #RomneyRyan2012, and the television has been overtaken by talking heads who say things like, “Ohio is a real battleground state” and “the Latino vote is defined by several key issues . . . ” On Tuesday, the 6th of November, many Americans will take time off of work to go vote for the next President of the United States of America (and possibly your local comptroller). But I will not join the masses at the polls this year.
It would be prudent to state the obvious: I am biased. Really, we all are. Our understanding of scripture, certain interests, culture, and spheres of influence shape our understanding of the world, and political discourse is no different. And I am unashamedly apolitical. I’m not an independent and I’m not undecided; I am none of the above. I guess you could call me a political conscientious objector, and I think there is some theological validity to that. I do not want everybody to stop voting. Instead, I want to convince both the politically weary and the politically active that there is an intelligent, serious, and informed position of political (in)activism.
Ever since the Pharisees asked Jesus about their tax status (Matthew 22:20), the teachings of Jesus and the Word of God have intersected with the governing of man. Long before American evangelicalism became a political juggernaut, conflicting ideas on how to engage the governing bodies thrived. From Paul’s exhortations to simply obey the government (which will be examined later) to Constantine’s complete takeover of government, the tide of the Church’s relationship with politics has ebbed and flowed.
The movements within Christendom that yell their political opinions the loudest often get the most attention. Especially within an American Evangelical culture that tends to see voting as vital to spiritual health as prayer. But the movements that have simply bowed out of the political discourse are often ignored.
Consider the Anabaptist and Pietist movements, which held a position of political disengagement because of the rule of Christ and the corruption of worldly governments. These movements held a position of civil separation, denying the worldliness of political strife. This position, originating as a contemporary of Puritanism, saw the political mess of 16th century Rome and decided that a biblically faithful alternative would be to step out of political discourse in favor of a communal, spiritual, and ecclesial focus. Which led to such ecumenical victories as Zinzendorf’s communities of living orthodoxy and the early 17th century Pietist gem of social witness and compassion (see True Christianity by Johann Arndt). Centuries later, many within the Anabaptist community still hold this view.
Today, a bevy within evangelicalism have followed suit and removed themselves from the political arena in the vein of “privatized mercy.” Many young evangelicals are not looking to the halls of Parliament or Senate for social justice, but taking action in the context of their sphere of influence. And for most Americans, this means neighborhoods, offices, and communities. To these evangelicals, politics are a divisive distraction.
Yet, there is an equally loud (if not much, much louder) group within evangelicalism who believe that it is sinful not to vote. Cases against Christian political engagement are often countered with Bible verses like Titus 3:1 and Romans 13:1–7:
Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work (Titus 3:1).
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.” (Romans 13:1–7).
However, these verses say nothing about political participation within a modern Democratic Republic. While it is important to note that at the time these verses were written there was a crude form of Hellenistic democracy in some of the city-states, Roman occupation did not adopt a democratic position. The Roman Empire was quite autocratic—they did not have anything that looked like the Magna Carta or the Constitution.
Realistically, these verses do not tie American Christians into a covenant that requires voting and political activism. Rather they teach Christians that the government is to be obeyed. These verses highlight the sovereignty of God, not the Christian duty to change the world. Jesus is already doing that.
Obeying the government is not a matter of changing the status quo, but of honoring Christ who, by faith “has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him” (Colossians 1:22). It is a matter of fearing and submitting to God as master, not in creating a heavenly kingdom on earth.
One of the most common errors of Christians in America is to forget what freedom actually is and where it comes from. True freedom is not given through the sacrament of the American constitution, but through the death and resurrection of Jesus. Freedom of will and of spirit are divine. Despite the writing of Foucault and other enlightenment-influenced philosophers, volition is not controlled by our circumstances.
It is evident from Scripture that freedom comes from Christ alone. As Paul tells the church in Galatia, who existed under persecution and political oppression:
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery….For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. (Galatians 5:1, 13).
True Christian freedom makes governmental liberty look unimportant in comparison.
Language and culture are such strong influences that they often go unrecognized. We think American democracy is the best option available because we are smack-dab in the middle of it. But it is important to note that Democracy is fading away and is simply not demanded or suggested in Scripture. Throughout the majority of human history, unpopular, autocratic rule has been the norm. These same scriptures applied to those living in such autocracies.
We all have cultural blinders on, but the Gospel calls for dying to our sense of cultural superiority. This includes making an honest effort to evaluate other forms of government. We would do well to admit that both the Imago Dei and the fallen nature of man exist within both Socialism and libertarian venture capitalism. But it seems that the hearts of American Christians have been stolen, or at least distracted from the mission and glory of Jesus, by political culture wars.
Pastor Thabiti Anyabwile illustrates this biblical tension:
It seems to me that if we really believe the system is broken but we vote anyway, we simply nullify our contention that the system is broken. Now, we may not believe it’s “that broken,” and so we vote. Praise God. I support you if you feel that way. But if you think the farce of national democratic elections has reached an almost irretrievable state of disrepair, corrupted by big money on both sides and fundamentally manipulative and insincere in its presentation of candidates, then to vote could only end in one outcome no matter who is elected–the further entrenchment of the brokenness we decry.
Truthfully, the god of “God and Country” is not the God of Galatians and Romans, but a culturally created deity. Many Christians collectively have fallen under the spell of “saving America” and the Republican Party Policy is often seen as Doctrine.
Simply look at your twitter feed from the debate nights. Pastors seemed to have forgotten that they are of a different Kingdom when Romney and Obama were on the TV. Remember the ubiquitous #debate hashtag?
Even some of the most respected Evangelical scholars like Dr. Russell Moore (whom I have the utmost respect for) have compared not voting to the sins of Pontius Pilate and the act of voting as comparable to the ministry of John the Baptist. And recently Greg Gilbert posted a series of tweets based on a culturally specific reading of Romans 13 calling those who would refuse to vote to “repent.”
Anyabwile rightly points out that this pseudo-Christian political game is crippling the church’s mission and reputation:
[It] has left the world with the impression, once again, that to be a Christian is to be a Republican. It’s fostered the impression that to be a Democrat is to be an anti-Christ. And it’s gone further: It’s sometimes suggested that there’s nothing supernatural about being a Christian.
And in light of this, I advocate for not voting because I believe many Christians cannot handle it. If voting, political radio shows, and debate tweeting are causing us to sin by losing sight of the centrality of the Gospel of Jesus, perhaps we ought to remove ourselves from the discussion. (Matthew 15:20, Matthew 17).
A few years back, I was obsessed with football. I watched every game and followed my team religiously, until one day when I angrily stormed out of a Buffalo Wild Wings and sat in my car because my team lost at the last minute. I decided to take an eight-week fast of all football. I needed to repent.
Then when I came back, I found myself strangely disengaged. Not in an “I don’t care” sort of way, but with a “no pressure” mindset. I no longer “needed” my team to win and I enjoyed football more than I ever had.
Perhaps many evangelicals need to do something similar. Step away and repent of political idolatry. Not forever, but maybe for a while. Note, I am not a separatist and I do not think politics are irredeemable. However, sometimes it takes repenting of an idol to see the good in something.
Like the cooking utensils in Isaiah 44:15–16 that men worshiped as gods, there is nothing wrong with cooking your food with a nice stick, but there is something wrong with bowing down to it. So it goes with politics.
But I am the weaker brother in this situation. I have been surrounded by politics since I was young, I have toyed with many political ideas, studied political philosophy, and tried hard to figure out what I “was” (a democrat, a socialist, a whig, etc.). It was always divisive, and I always found myself unsatisfied. So I left the game. And while voting can be a way to engage the culture at large without committing one of the aforementioned blunders that can lead to spiritual sickness, I have found it much more spiritually joyful and productive to leave it all alone.
I don’t predict that I will never vote or engage government affairs, but I think that there needs to be change. Some, like Anyabwile and myself, would like to see the political party system collapse and be rebuilt. And not only rebuilt, but rebuilt with a Christian base that is a true representative of Jesus. But I do not see this happening in this life, so I eagerly wait for the return of Jesus to crush Super-PACS and ballot boxes.
I do not intend to discourage you from going to the poles on the 6th. I simply want to encourage you to consider whether you have made politics an idol. We must not conform to the civilian affairs of this world. Instead, we must seek to love God and neighbor by obeying Jesus in the areas where we truly have influence.
Illustration courtesy of Seth T. Hahne. Check out his graphic novel and comic review site, Good Ok Bad.
To read this issue of Christ and Pop Culture Magazine in full today, become a member for as little as $5 per month. Members also get full access to all back issues, free stuff each month, and entrance to our exclusive members-only group on Facebook—and you’ll help us keep the lights on. Join now.
Nick, I commend this article and your stance. You give a lot to think about.
Although it’s “too late” for me this year (I early voted), I will have to give your thoughts serious consideration in future elections.
Thanks for the feedback Daniel. I hope what I wrote is helpful and not divisive!
I appreciate your perspective on this one. I’m in the opposite situation, personally. I live in one of the reddest of red states, so my vote for president means very little. However, there are a number of important local issues on the ballot, and since I have the privilege of casting a meaningful vote on those issues, I’m going to do it. I’ve considered not voting at all, but I think that if I refused to vote, it would be more out of cynicism and resignation (if not sheer laziness) than out of principle. So I’m going to vote this year, if ever so reluctantly.
Still, better to not vote and preserve your integrity than to violate your conscience by voting, if those are your only choices. Which, I suppose, is another way of saying that there’s no point in gaining the whole world at the expense of your soul.
Seeking Jesus is this election starts with the “least” of the “least of these”, the unborn. The Dens have abortion on demand in their platform. A vote for them or not voting at all would be in support of the 6000+ innocent unborn children killed each week, only 3% due to rape. So hold your nose if you have to but vote for Romney and every other republican on the tickets.
Sorry should read only 3% due to rape, incest or the life of the mother.
The thing that gets me about you Christians, is that you claim that “we are not of this world”. If you really believe that, quit complaining when a candidate that you don’t like gets elected. Continue on with your delusion. After all, your home is heaven where Jeebus reigns eternally. Quit bitching when the rest of us elect the best candidate.
Michael you are working off incomplete information. We are called to not be OF this world but we must be IN this world. We are citizens of this country just like you. So take your advice.
I appreciate this article as it gives some well-reasoned and thoughtful insights into a position I’m toying with myself. I’d like to offer some push-back, though, in the interests of furthering my understanding. What about those of us who, like you, have already adopted a healthy cynicism toward American politics and the possibility of meaningful change coming from either party? You don’t seem to advocate the Anabaptist posture, but how would you counsel those of us who still would like to use our right to vote in a purposeful way? Third parties? Is it simply impossible to serve God by voting, or can you see a way that it might be done?
True, I am certainly no Anabaptist and I believe that voting can be an act of social action and significance. In the article I quoted at length by Thabiti Anyabwile, he goes on to advocate a radical reform of the party system by Christians abandoning the ‘left’ and the ‘right’ and forming some sort of gospel party. I would love that, and even be willing to put a lot of time and personal resources into that. But I really think that Christians, sadly, lack the man power to get that off the ground.
Honestly, I think that whatever sits well in the conscience, empowered by the Spirit, is what a person should do. I do not advocate Christians all not voting here, but show the historical validity of the position and ask if it has become idolatrous, for Christians to repent.
Hope this is helpful. Thanks for the feedback.
I appreciate the article, but I disagree with you and Pastor Thabiti. Here’s my two cents.
First, it is an absolute inevitability that either Romney or Obama will be the next President, short of a catastrophe of some weird plague. That is a fact; it is unavoidable, and we ought to look at it square in the face. That means that your staying home will effectively do nothing at all. In fact, if you stay home forever, absolutely nothing will change. If more and more believers stay home, things will get decidedly worse. Nobody cares if you do not vote, and in reality, you will only hurt the party that is closest to your values by staying home. So I would recommend voting because one of these dudes is going to be President, and you want it to be the one least likely to blow everything sky high.
Second, as far as third party ticket goes, I will say, without a doubt, they WILL LOSE this time. Nobody cares if you vote third party in Washington, and you will only hurt the guy who could actually win who you share the most in common with. Again, the outcome of the election is not in doubt. One of these two guys is going to win. Period.
Third, even if under some wild scenario a third party did win, they would be completely handicapped in the office of President. They would have zero party support, and for all our ideas of the President being a BOSS, he isn’t. He has to have backing in Congress or he might as well stay in the Oval Office and twiddle his thumbs.
So what to do? Vote this time, and work towards a third party ticket or a change within the parties. A real third party threat has to come up from the local level. We need representatives in Congress before a President can make a difference. We need them as governors and as mayors. That’s doable in many locations.
So why doesn’t this happen? Because Americans are lazy. We only like to gripe, especially once every four years for about one month. Then we cast a meaningless protest vote, or we stay home, and I promise you, they do not give a rip about these gestures in Washington. That’s a fact. How do I know? Because I have seen how the machine works. I have watched 3,000 college students elect a city councilman in a town of 100,000 people because folks couldn’t be bothered to vote. Their sound ordinances will never be the same. And I promise you, we wanted people to stay home and not vote because it guaranteed us victory year after year.
I think your conclusion is naive, bro. I’d like to think that staying home made a difference, but to the guy who wins, he now knows that he can win without you, and therefore he has no incentive to go after your vote. And the guy who lost? He knows he couldn’t move you to vote anyway, and so he gave up. The only thing left, then, is a bunch of hard work to form a third party. Are you up for that? How would you differentiate? How would your platform be significantly different from the two main parties or any of the existing third party ones that have failed?
Again, my two cents. Your mileage may vary.
To me, the act of voting in a democratic republic such as the United States is a responsibility for every believer. We are called to be the Lord’s ambassadors, and that is to infuse every part of our lives, not just on Sundays (or other church gathering days, as the case may be.) The Lord’s commands are quite clear in Scripture, and we are to, through our conduct, proclaim both the Gospel and the Lord’s values until He returns. In the Roman Empire, that proclamation could only be done through interpersonal relationship. However, that proclamation often resulted in civil disobedience.
In America today, we still have the right to proclaim the Lord’s values amid our political system, and be His Voice in the halls of our government, without resorting to civil disobedience. We can still stand for the defenseless, and oppose those who rush to shed innocent blood and those who would declare that God’s standards are irrelevant to our culture.
The day may come when we declare, “Jesus is Lord!” in disobedience to the commands of a modern day Caesar.
But we are not there now.
So, to not take up our responsibility and seek to represent our Lord in the halls of our government, to me, is akin to the servant in the parable of the talents who took the money his master had left with him and buried it in the ground because he was too afraid to do anything with it. We are called to take the gifts God has given us and use them for the advancement of His Kingdom. And, to me, being born an American citizen, with the political freedoms we enjoy, is just as much a gift as any other natural advantage a human being can enjoy. If I take that gift and spit on it, because I declare, myself, that God will just sort everything out later when He returns, then I am sinning. And, in the meantime, I would be, in part, responsible for the horrors that would be visited upon the people of my nation and the world as a result of allowing those who do not fear God to choose the leaders of this country unopposed.
But I leave it to my fellow believers to work out for themselves, in prayer, how they will interpret their responsibilities as Christ-followers living in a form of democratic government that did not exist at the time the Scriptures were penned.
I totally agree with Brad on this one.
I agree with most of what you say and I disagree with Brad. I agree with Brad in that there is a larger, strategic picture. But I disagree with his reading of it. Here’s what I mean: Voting is an ethical choice as well as a pragmatic one. I am voting with enlightened self-interest: I analyze; I reason; I try to figure it out; but ultimately there are certain core values which will drive me. Many of my Republican friends, I think, are driven by fear in this election and have succumbed to “anyone but Obama” fever. This is their core motive. And they may be right to be so motivated. I have used the lesser of two evils argument many times in my over 30 years of voting.
But I’ve changed. My “core values” (and those of a growing number of my former Republican friends) are a support for limited government and upholding the 1st Amendment. When both major parties give ample evidence that they not for limited government, and that they will support encroachments into our freedoms, what is a thoughtful person to do? Brad’s comments tend toward acquiescence to the zero-sum game that is American politics. Many evangelical leaders give very little room for other strategies besides voting Republican, which is why I appreciate your post. Romney’s support of TARP, NDAA, and individual mandates for health care, to say nothing of his late conversion to pro-life, should trouble anyone genuinely concerned about our freedoms. To support him as a genuinely principled defender of freedom, based on his record, is wishful thinking. Obama has been a disaster in this area as well (his executive orders alone are frightening). Brad and other evangelicals over-simplify the discussion.
I will be voting for a third party and am therefore taking a longer view than who will win this election. I and many Christians are committed to a pro-life agenda above almost anything else politically, but we are now almost 40 years removed from Roe v Wade, and reasonable people can differ as to whether much has changed at all in those years. Abortion is still legal and many Christians vote Republican out of conscience because pro-life is part of the party platform. Apart from some victories in the funding of abortion, the fight over partial birth, and fulminating over Supreme Court appointments, what has been accomplished? No doubt, every victory in this fight is a legitimate win, but why don’t we change the discussion?
As I see it, limiting the size and influence of the federal government (all three branches) and in some meaningful way returning the decision-making over abortion to the state level is a better and more principled long-term strategy. This is a discussion I wish more evangelicals were having. Most Christian leaders are very cautious, but (in my opinion) come as close as they can to saying “vote Republican.” The subject of limited government or 1st Amendment issues they largely ignore as motivating factors. Practically, until the two parties give evidence that limiting government is core to their agenda, it seems that Americans–Christian and non-Christian–could significantly change the debate, over time, by voting for third parties. I have no illusions, by the way, that in supporting a third secular party, that I am supporting essentially more righteous people. As someone has wisely said, if we had three legitimate choices we would now be choosing the lesser of three evils. I think American Christians put too much hope in the political process and in human leaders.
Finally, I only have one vote, not thousands, so pragmatism can only go so far. I will be voting for the man I believe would be the best president, period. It’s not that complicated. The “who will win” calculus I leave in the hands of Him who has already appointed who will be our president.
I’m a little surprised by the responses here… I thought you were very gracious and thoughtful in your comments, and at no point did you advocate widespread abstention from voting. Instead, you gently asked us to consider whether politics have become an idol, and recommended that we consider steps to remove that idol if it is such. Further, you explained (again, without making it an absolute THIS or THAT statement) why you abstain.
I found this article to be extremely helpful and am very comfortable with the way you laid it out and communicated your point. This is the essence of gracious civil discourse. Thanks so much!
Terrific article. Thanks.
I’d like to make my contribution to the conversation…
Which party really represents Christian values? Republicans just because they are anti-abortion in most cases? Why only most cases? Isn’t it just for political expediency? It seems to be for Mitt Romney, he’s changed his rhetoric just during this campaign. Governor Romney was pro-choice, candidate Romney is pro-life (mostly). I don’t trust his sincerity for a moment. And I’m not about to throw my vote behind a guy who I think will be an utter train wreck just because he says he’s pro-life.
And that term, pro-life… shouldn’t it mean more than anti-abortion? Shouldn’t it mean that we care about the people in our society from cradle to grave with programs that help those out who have trouble helping themselves? Those are the kinds of programs Democrats want to ensure stay in place. WIC, Medicare, food assistance, unemployment, Social Security, Head Start, college tuition programs, universal healthcare… the list goes on and on. Republican rhetoric seems to imply that people who need these types of programs are less human than the real hard-working Americans. Is that Christlike? Jesus healed the sick, fed the hungry and loved the broken. He had no home during his ministry. He was dependent on others. The theocratic society of the OT had welfare programs.
You can certainly argue that Democrats are okay ending life before it has the ability to reach that cradle, and you’re right. Most accept that we live in a pluralistic society in which there have to be compromises in the political arena between leader’s faith and governing decisions. I don’t like that that’s their conclusion, but I understand it. What I don’t understand is how Republican candidates can claim to believe that life begins at conception, but still allow caveats for rape, incest and the health of the mother. Is it not life in those cases? Or is it that they’re just interested in political expediency?
But I digress. Abortion. Does making it harder to do legally or making it illegal through political gamesmanship that requires other compromises to our faith really bring God glory? I don’t think so. The woman who doesn’t know Jesus and wants and abortion but can’t do it legally isn’t going to suddenly become saved by that non-action. She’s still going to have a broken, sin-filled heart. She’s still going to want to kill her baby.
I would suggest that anyone who is a single-issue voter on the issue of abortion should be volunteering and donating lots of money to their local Christian-based crisis pregnancy center (you’ve probably got one and just don’t know about it). Lots of money. Put your time and money where your mouth is. Spread the word that it’s there. Help get giant billboards that advertise the alternative to Planned Parenthood. Get scared young women who think abortion is their only choice into those places, show them their babies and tell them about Jesus (my wife volunteered at one in our last city. They gave free ultrasounds and said that more than 70% of young women who saw that ultrasound instantly changed their minds). That’s what leads to transformed hearts.
Don’t like abortion? Me neither. It’s a despicable practice. But just voting anti-abortion, that’s lazy. Get in the fight.
As for me, if I vote, it’ll be to re-elect the president. But this article gives a lot of food for thought about the if. Thanks again!
I am not voting in this year’s presidential election. I will vote in the other races on the ballot, but cannot in good conscience cast a ballot for any of the candidates for President. Why? Both major party candidates, Romney and Obama, meet the Biblical definition of false teacher and we are instructed not to give our support to such men. I have concluded that they are not simply flawed men like those among whom we have had to choose in the past, but manifest a spirit of evil that should not have the support of a Christ follower. In Georgia, the only other choice we have is Libertarian Gary Johnson – pro-abortion and pro-gay marriage, and holding many of the other questionable views that Libertarians often have. For what I think should be obvious reasons, that is an unacceptable choice as well.
Romney is not only Mormon, but was a high ranking leader in that group – a teacher. Among other heretical teachings, Mormon doctrine rejects the doctrine of the Trinity, but does so by teaching that Father, Son and Holy Ghost are not of the same substance, and that Jesus was a created being that has become a god. This teaching contradicts the clear teaching of Scripture found in John 1 and as a result meets the definition of false teacher found in 1 John 4:1-3, a definition explained throughout 1 John. 2 John 10-11 teaches that if we even give such men a greeting we participate in their deeds. I feel that voting for such a man, giving him my imprimatur, would make me a participant in his false teaching. I understand that some can distinguish 2 John by noting that he is running to be President, not coming to us as a teacher. Is that a distinction that really makes a difference under these circumstances? I do not believe so. Further, I am hopeful it will give me a stronger basis for evangelism in the coming months if I refuse to case a compromised vote for evil.
Furthermore, I do not trust Romney’s “evolution” on abortion and especially gay marriage/civil unions. Here is a perfect example of why discerning believers should not be fooled by Romney and should be very careful about expressing support for him from a basis of biblical values. On October 11 he met with Billy Graham. In the days that follow the Grahams’ website is scrubbed of references to Mormonism as a cult and the plans are laid for running those “biblical values” ads, apparently with the help of David Jeremiah. The ads begin running on October 17 – the same day that Romney (himself apparently) and senior advisors met with, cut a deal with and obtain the endorsement of the Log Cabin Republicans, part of which is NOT to advocate for a constitutional amendment on marriage and perhaps NOT to oppose challenges to DOMA – things he has been promising since the primaries and at least as of last week was still featured on his website. http://www.christianpost.com/news/why-a-romney-white-house-may-not-be-unfriendly-to-gays-84014/. Within a period of six days Romney sat face to face with Billy Graham and the gay sub-group of the Republican party and obtained the endorsement of both. How does that happen?
Obama speaks about Christian faith. He lectures and instructs those that listen, but then articulates beliefs that are not Biblical. Further, he articulates those unbiblical beliefs as arising out of his Christian faith, contrary to Jude 4. His “evolution” on homosexual marriage is the most egregious example of this conduct. He idolizes human institutions, especially government. Moreover, his stance on the legalized killing of children is simply reprehensible. Finally, and this has become more obvious in the last year, Obama is clearly more interested in supporting Islamic concerns than Christian ones. I am not saying he is Muslim. I am not contending that an American president should be a Christian theocrat. An American president should not, however, claim a Christian faith and then pander to Muslims, especially to the detriment of Christians as well as national security (which is one of his primary responsibilities). I will say he provides no evidence that he walks in the light, and the evidence suggests that he walks in darkness. He holds himself out as a teacher, and thus also runs afoul of 1 John 4:1-3.
Luther reportedly said he would rather be lead by a wise Turk than a dumb Christian. Fortunately we do not yet have to make such a choice. We, however, have two professing Christians that meet the Biblical definition of false teacher. Obama proclaims faith, but then professes unbiblical, abominable positions as resulting from that faith. Romney was a bishop and stake president in a cult, and his ascendency cannot but result in more souls being led astray. I cannot in good conscience vote for either.
Alleluia brother! I’ve lost faith in Christians of late – evangelicals in particular. I can’t reconcile the politicization of personal Christian choices and the ultimate alienation of those we are purporting to reach out to. You nailed it on the head.
To all that think they will not vote….In 2008, millions of evangelicals stayed home and did not vote. Obama won by 10 million. When you do not vote, you have actually given your vote away. There is not a perfect candidate. But we can vote for the one that believes as close to the Bible as possible. We are not voting for the pastor of the U.S. We are voting for our leader. I am an evangelical Minister. It is my responsibility to vote, to pray for the leaders and our country and to influence others to vote for our leader. Billy Graham and Franklin Graham are advocating Gov. Romeny. They know him personally. If you feel they way you do, don’t try to push your ideas off on others. This country was founded on the rights to worship and serve for Christ. We must uphold our country and these rights. Someday we may have none. But I will not be guilty of doing all that I can to under God’s direction do my part to keep our country or help it to be “One Nation under God.”
“But we can vote for the one that believes as close to the Bible as possible.”
Wouldn’t that mean voting for Obama or a Third Party candidate?
Mitt Romney is a Mormon. Unless he’s publicly renounced that faith and turned to Christianity, Obama’s the one who actually claims Christ in a more orthodox (aka not a heretical claim to the Gospel like Mormonism). So, while I appreciate the desire to see someone we share values with working as President, isn’t the criteria “believes as close to the Bible as possible” enough to thoroughly discredit Romney?
These two candidates are running mostly on secular issues. We should be judging them on their stand on those issues.
The only real religious issues are:
1. Romney has flip flopped on abortion. When he was governor of my state, it was a non-issue. He has to be against it to get the Christian vote.
2. Obama is in deep with the Catholic bishops over the HHS mandate, supposedly depriving Catholics of their religous liberty. Tell that to the cafeteria worker at Notre Dame or the nurse at Saint Elizabeth’s hospital that have incomplete health care coverage compared to what has to be required in insurance plans for other employers.
All the other issues are secular. The economy, foreign relations, national security, etc.
If you just looked at the candidates and if you weren’t filled with so many religious sentiments, I’m sure you could decide who to vote for. They are so different from one another. Surely, you must have a preferrence. That’s who you should vote for. You’re making it way too complicated.
The Founding Fathers would be appalled. They fought and sacrificed their “lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor” in order to create our nation as a polity where people could choose their own leaders and through them, the laws that govern them.
The Civil War was fought, accordibng to Abraham Lincoln, to determine whether any nation governed by the general population as the sovereigns, could endure, or would be destroyed as the the Confederacy had sought to do by seceding and refusing to be bound by the results of national elections.
The greatest corruption of our governmental system is the refusal to hold people accountable for their decisions. Regardless of what the common law says about people not having a duty to rescue people who they could rescue, you have a moral duty to exercise your right to vote to make society as good as we can make it, by choosing good and wise people to exercise the necessary powers of government. Don’t you think that God holds you accountable in the end for failing to take action that was within your power when you could have helped your neighbors? Or will you pass over on the other side of the road, saying to yourself that the broken society that has been mugged by reality is deserving of every bit of suffering, and so we should let it suffer, rather than take it up as our burden and pour oil on its wounds?
I am an anabaptist and I pastor in the Mennonite tradition. I’m not sure it’s fair to say anabaptists, historically – or even presently – take the stance of disengagement from the political process (Mennonite Central Committee has a Washington DC office and an envoy to the United Nations). There were certainly seasons in our history that, due to persecution and martyrdom, Anabaptists became “the silent in the land.” What is fair to say is that Anabaptists consistently reject the idea of a “Christian nation” or any confluence of the church and state. A core value of anabaptists, from the beginning of the movement until now, is the belief in a believers only church, which is an alternative community relative to the world and is not influenced by the state. This was born as a reaction to the state churches that existed at the time of the reformation (early 16th cent.) AND, more importantly, in the way anabaptists understood the New Testament teaching about the church. We believe the kingdom of God is “already” – i.e. Jesus inaugurated the kingdom through his life, teaching, death and resurrection – and “not yet” – i.e. the kingdom isn’t fully consummated until his return. Between the “already” and “not yet” of the kingdom (which is now), we are called to live out the way of Jesus in our relationship with God and others.
As for political engagement, our primary allegiance is to the kingdom of God and the way of Christ. Later anabaptists – especially those of us who study John Howard Yoder – understand the state as a divinely pagan institution. As per Roman’s 13, the divine mandate of the state is to support the good (as defined by God) and to suppress that which is evil, even with the sword. Paul’s instruction to the church is to live rightly, doing what is good. To a rightly ordered state, living out its divine mandate well, the christian should be no threat. As per Revelation 13, however, we also accept that the state is essentially pagan and is prone to wonder away from it’s divine mandate. The state can become opposed to the things of God in word and deed. We are not to worship the state in any form, as it is a false-god.
[I could go on – I wrote a series of posts on my blog where I explored Yoder’s book Discipleship as Political Responsibility. That fleshes out his argument more than is allowed here.]
All that is to say that when I, as an anabaptist, engage in the political process or go to the polls, I’m doing it – not as an American, a Republican or a Democrat – but as a follower of Jesus. I do not make the nation-state an idol by conflating it with the kingdom of God. I do not trust in horses and chariots for my safety and security. BUT, I do engage in the political process knowing that nation states have a great deal of power and wealth. They are neither all good or all bad. They can exercise influence in the world in ways that support the good and they can become corrupt such that they support the bad instead. However, the judgement of what is good and bad is based, not on my own opinion, but on the shalom that God intended from the beginning and is recreating in the present. When I vote for President, I try to discern which candidate will do the most good and least bad within my understanding of what God is up to in the world. I also have abstained from voting for a particular office when the truth is so obscured that it is impossible to tell. This year may be one of those years. I do believe, along with Yoder, that the purpose of the state is to create and maintain a civil society such that people don’t turn on one another in violence and create chaos. The purpose of this relative civility is to create space for the church to live out her vocation and calling in such a way that the kingdom of God expands. The more the kingdom of God expands and God’s people rightly order their lives after the way of Jesus, the easier it is for the government to do its job.
That’s just an outline of the way I think about the issues you raised from an anabaptist perspective. I do think it’s a privilege and responsibility to engage in politics. In our confession of faith we have an article about witnessing to the state as part of our discipleship. I engage my representatives and senators on a host of issues, most regularly regarding US foreign policy in Colombia. I also don’t believe it is a sin NOT to vote with this caveat – to simply not vote really does nothing to challenge the status quo. Choosing not to vote, perhaps, should be accompanied by some other form of nonviolent direct action or protest that highlights the broken nature of the political process. Not sure what that would look like. I would love a lot more truth-telling (not fact-checking) by candidates on all sides!
Grace and peace.
Well said, Michael. As to your point of voting for who you deem would do the most good, a friend of mine yesterday made a good point: those of us who are voting for alternatives to the main two parties and are pro-life have, in this political discussion, a different definition of what is evil. Most pro-lifers I read believe the greatest evil is to vote for anyone who is not pro-life. We believe the greater evil in this battle is the continuation of the status quo. In other words, 40 years after Roe v Wade not much has changed and we are still talking about presidents and Supreme Court justices as key to pro-life victories. What happens if a series of committed pro-life presidents are elected, the high Court swings pro-life, and Roe v Wade is overturned? We will STILL be in the situation where the battle will need to be won on a state and local level. To say nothing of hearts and minds changing through revival. Be smarter and more strategic pro-lifers!
After 40 years of linking your pro-life agenda to this arguably failed strategy, isn’t it time to try something different? Most of the comments I read are from people who have given in to the emotion and fear of the present election. The Republican Party has shown that it is largely OK with business as usual in DC. To think that Romney represents a move away from DC-centered, corrupt politics is wishful thinking.
The third party strategy must be a longer term strategy. I wish Christians would stop investing so much emotional and spiritual capital in the political process! Fight abortion locally by supporting crisis pregnancy centers, welcoming unwed mothers into your life, etc, and stop expecting definitive victory in the pro-life battle by voting Republican. There are other ways of approaching this problem than every four years dancing to the Republican tune.
As you say, Nick, perhaps this election is one to sit out. I agree with Michael and prefer to be engaged, but we all can agree that our fundamental hope and joy will not rest in the outcome of this election. Peace.
Thank you, Thomas Mitchell. You have eloquently summarized my own understanding, and conviction. I have never been a politically active Christian. I’ve had a “live and let live” attitude towards the entire voting question. Egads — I’m one of those Christians who has never voted. I was saved at the age of 23 and am now 57. I saw myself as a citizen of the Kingdom of God and the world’s governments as those offered to Jesus by the god of this world. I saw that I was commanded to pray for those in positions of government leadership, to give thanks for them and to bless and curse not. I saw my influence to be as a Christian who for conscience sake could not become entangled in the affairs of this life. I am surrounded by Christians who have such a hatred for the current President that they have fallen into a hateful spirit – they speak things about him and Democrats/Liberals that are so evil and which I cannot see Jesus ever having any company with. My heart is so grieved and I am so distant from these brethren, for they are filled with strife — political strife. I have had to separate myself from church prayer meetings because I cannot have any agreement with these unfruitful works of darkness. I no longer hear prayers against the evil spiritual entities behind these deceivers, but instead “I hate Democrats.” “I hate Liberals.” Hate the devil but love the one held captive and seek to pull them out of the coming flames of fiery destruction. Yes, the devil has worked himself right comfortably into the midst of the church and has brought division between brothers and sisters. Had we only remained ambassadors of the gospel of Christ Jesus and lived to share the gospel with our neighbors, our coworkers, those with whom we have influence. Had we only continued to stand separate from all the spirits of this world and not become idolaters, we would have had power in prayer with God to see Him answer our cries. For we would have then fulfilled 2 Chron. 7:14 and God would have healed our land. But we cannot join hand in hand with evil and have God hear and honor our prayers. I personally believe that Christiandom was invaded by a spirits of this world who promoted political involvement above Christian repentance. But God promised that He would first allow His judgment to begin at the House of God, His own people. Then, He will allow these same deceiving and seducing spirits to try the whole world. A false prophet of radio/tv who is of the same “unbelief” as a presidential candidate — this false prophet was used to lay the groundwork of apostasy that how now brought Christians to promoting a false savior. Christians are giving their support to a man whom God says we should not wish any favor or success (definition of god speed). Christians should never have allowed this false prophet into their homes through radio and TV. A little leaven indeed has worked to become a full lump, a lump ready to be cast into the fire. This is already a judgment of God upon His people — spiritual blindness is God’s judgment upon His House. Yes, Thomas. I hope God will now give those of us who He graced to see this clearly, I hope we will have opportunity to lead others to repent of this evil and be ready for Jesus’ soon return for His Bride. But, quite honestly, I’ve wondered if this is not part of the great falling away that 2 Thess. 2 says will occur. I’ve wondered if we are being sent to sound the trumpet, to warn others to depart from this evil and do good — but they simply refuse to hear us. This is the call of every Christian — to love God and His word above all other gods and words (doctrines). For He has magnified His word above His name. And His word tells us to have NO fellowship with the unfruitful works (workers) of darkness, but rather reprove them. Whether they will hear or refuse to listen. We are salt and light. If we have lost our savour, what are we good for?
I didn’t vote 4 years ago and I’m not voting this year. I’ve heard the “lesser of 2 evils” argument and personally I find it offensive. Would you rather be shot in the left knee or the right knee? You may not like either choice, but you have to choose, to me, is no choice at all. To say I have to choose is to deny my free will not to choose. I say find yourself a good accountant and pay as little as possible to this worldly government and remember that we’re here a short period of time, and it doesn’t matter who you vote for because God will choose the leader anyway. (John 19:11)
That is really attention-grabbing, You are an overly professional blogger. I’ve joined your feed and look ahead to searching for more of your great post. Also, I’ve shared your web site in my social networks!
There were many good points in this article. Whether we as Christians vote or not, the one thing we are called to do is pray for the leaders of our country. I am surprised at the number of people who call themselves Christians but constantly bash the President. It doesn’t matter who is elected, at least half of the country will not like the outcome. No matter who is elected, we should all be spending time daily in prayer for the leaders and for our country as a whole. And it would not hurt to ask God for a better choice for 2016.
Hurry up, Nick! There is still time to VOTE!!!! :D
For those who say Christians should not vote or become engaged in issues regarding civil government, what about this?
On Tuesday, California’s Proposition 35 passed by overwhelming margins. It lengthens prison terms for human trafficking, it was spearheaded and placed on the ballot by evangelical Daphne Phung and the organization he founded, Californians Against Slavery, based on his Christian convictions.
Was he wrong to do that? If so, why? If this was OK, but other forms of civil engagement by Christians is not, why not?
Was MLK Jr. wrong to seek to use the ballot box to overturn Jim Crow laws? Was Harriet Beecher Stowe wrong to seek to overturn slavery laws? Was Susan B. Anthony wrong to seek to overturn gender discrimination laws?
These were all Christians, motivated by their Biblical convictions. Yet they were wrong? Really???
Nick and others who chose not to vote. Congratulations. You have now given up any reason to complain or argue about anything political for the next 2-4 years. Why? Because you had your chance to have a say, and you chose to turn it down. You wimped out and let others make the choice for you. Instead of taking the time to decide what you personally believe, discovering what the candidates said they believe, and then voting accordingly, you hid when it counted. So don’t expect any of us who did go out and stand in line, or voted absentee, when you didn’t have a reason to not do the same to hold you in the same esteem.
Don’t want to vote in the Presidential race? Fine. Don’t mark your ballot, the machine doesn’t care and you are still able to vote for any and all of the other races and positions, some of which may, , actually affect you and/or someone you love or care about.
My Mother has been a voting supervisory judge for almost 2 decades, I have been privileged to learn the changes as we’ve gone from books and hand counting ballots to electronics and the ipads in the past couple of elections. I’ve been privileged to go with her and/or to hear about some of her schools. Every poll worker has the chance to go to school just before the election, in order to learn any changes and have their memories refreshed. I’ve also heard the generic version of some of her horror and stupidity stories.
I get angry at people who come up with stupid ideas such as putting Jesus as a write-in, because they think it will count as a vote against the party they like least, while not counting as a vote for the other party either. Guess what, it doesn’t work that way. It’s like writing in Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck (and people have). That vote gets tossed out, and is not for or against for any of the 2 party or third party candidates; there’s just not enough people voting for Jesus or MM or DD (thankfully). So you’ve just wasted your vote.
If you’re not going to be serious about it, fine, then don’t vote – but don’t complain about the results of that/those vote(s) for at least the next 2-4 years.
And please, can we do away with the really ridiculous idea that if you don’t believe exactly as I do, then you’re not a Christian? Saw and heard of plenty of that this election as well. Or the idea that “if you’re Christian, you’ve got to vote Republican,” or “if you’re Christian, you’ve got to vote Democrat.” Newsflash – there are Christians in all political parties. You don’t have to vote like I do anymore than I have to vote like you do, and both of us can be Christian.
It’s long past time people stopped hiding behind Jesus’ robe and the church doors as excuses.
“some of which may, , actually affect you and/or someone you love or care about.”
Sorry, I’m used to using the less-than and greater-than symbols, which didn’t show up here. That sentence should have read ” some of which may,(gasp), actually affect you and/or someone you love or care about.”
I think the best exposition on why Christians should not vote can be found in chapters 17 & 18 of a book published by New Covenant Press titled “Blood Guilt” (see Amazon.com or http://covenant.nu) The primary argument focuses on the matter of being complicit to bloodshed, which is discussed, among other arguments against voting, within these two chapters.
Perhaps an example from the book will better illustrate the problem:
— begin quote —
Can a Christian remain “innocent as a dove” when choosing to vote for a presidential candidate who promised to continue fighting two unnecessary wars, such as President [George W.] Bush pledged in his 2004 re-election campaign? “We will finish what we have begun, and we will win this essential victory in the war on terror,” the president said during a July 2004 fundraiser, months prior to the election which many described as a “referendum on the war.” Can a Christian logically cast a vote for a man who promises to “stay the course” and then deny any responsibility for the continuation of the bloodshed in Iraq and Afghanistan by U.S. troops — U.S. troops which are led by the commander-in-chief they helped re-elect? Are not the acts of the agent the responsibility of the employer? Are not the voters in some way responsible for the agents they elect?
— end quote —
I have read the replies of those who have posted to this thread, and not one of them recognizes or acknowledges how electing state and national leaders can make one complicit in the shedding of human blood. Jesus instructed his disciples to be wise as serpents, yet innocent as doves. Involvement in secular, national politics fails to keep a follower of Jesus “innocent as a dove.”
Comments are now closed for this article.